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Road injuries, TAC claims, and your work

If you’re injured while on the road, what is affected if you are working at the time?

Road and work accidents are the two most common forms of injury, and each has their own State-run insurance schemes and Acts which govern them. Each of these has their own different benefits and compensation arrangements.

If you have been injured in any way while on the road, whether as a driver, a passenger, a pedestrian, or on a bike or motorcycle, you are covered by the Transport Accident Insurance scheme. To learn more about how the scheme works and your rights to income support and compensation, and the level of benefits available, go straight to our Road Injuries and TAC Claims section under Lawyers for Life.

But what about road injuries suffered while at work?

But what happens if you’re injured on the way to or from work, or even at work? If you’re caught in a road accident and injured while away from work, what type of income support are you entitled to? Furthermore, are there occasions on which you might be entitled to claim under both schemes? And is your job at all threatened if kept away from work while recovering?

We’ll tackle some of these questions now.

The TAC or WorkCover – which covers me for a road accident while I’m at work?

If you are injured in a car, truck or cycling accident, then you have rights under both WorkCover and the TAC. But it’s a little tricky.

If you leave your place of employment on a designated work break, for example, let’s say its morning tea or you go out to buy lunch, and you are caught up in a road accident, then your entitlement to income replacement (weekly payments), medical and like expenses and modest lump sum compensation for permanent impairment is governed by the WorkCover laws and scheme.

However, if the accident was due to the negligence of someone else, then the right to claim lump sum compensation for pain and suffering and loss of earnings is governed by TAC laws.

Some accidents in the workplace involving forklifts are also similarly covered.

What about accidents while commuting to or from work?

The picture here is much clearer.

If you are caught in an accident while on your way to start work, or after you leave the workplace, say, after completing a shift, you are covered by the Transport Accident Act. There is no involvement by WorkCover.

Can I claim under both schemes, TAC and WorkCover?

The answer is no. The circumstances under which you are injured determines which of the two schemes applies in your case.

What if I miss work due to a road injury?

First, if you've missed work because of your rehabilitation, you are entitled to income support. There are guidelines on how much you're entitled to. In general terms, the TAC will pay 80% of your pre-road injury income, but this is subject to a maximum cap. These are called loss of earnings benefits and may be paid initially for a period of up to 18 months, at which time they are reviewed. But if you still cannot return to full time work, your income support may be renewed for a further 18 months, which is therefore a total of 3 years.

If however after 18 months you are able to return to work at least part time, you will be eligible for a further 18 months of partial income support.

What if I’m permanently injured?

More seriously, if you've had a major accident and your injury has permanently affected your capacity for continuing employment, you will be entitled to a lump sum payment. Lump sum payments may be made for pain and suffering which are linked to the severity of your injury. If it's a major injury resulting in serious permanent disability, you are entitled to pursue your case in court.

The maximum payment for pain and suffering is $458,450 and for loss of income, $1,031,540. Both sums are indexed.

Always the best first step to take is simply to call us. It won't cost you anything for our initial advice.

What if my job is threatened because I’ve been away from work on TAC benefits?

A short-term absence from work following a road accident generally does not pose a problem for most employees and their bosses. However, the longer the absence from work, or indeed an inability to perform the normal duties once back at work, can pose major problems.

The longer the period away from work, the less your boss is likely to be understanding of your plight. This is where the TAC and WorkCover schemes differ markedly because under WorkCover, your employer is obliged to actively assist you back to employment, even this is on lighter duties. The TAC scheme has no similar provisions.

Futhermore, WorkCover’s mission is to get people back into the workforce, even if an employee is unable to return to their previous job. The TAC may make a case officer available to assist you with rehab and job retraining, and to visit you at home, but it helps to have a lawyer on your side who is prepared to remind them of their obligations.

Unfortunately, if after three years, you have a serious road injury that prevents you from returning to work, you may be shifted onto a disability benefit, which will result less income and support.

Making an early decision on a lump sum claim

If you have sustained a serious road injury that is therefore likely to alter completely your ability to return to the workforce, you shouldn’t wait 3 years before taking action. You should file a claim for lump sum compensation, and be prepared to take it to court if necessary. These claims can have a long period of gestation, especially if it goes to court, so you don’t want to be without support in the interim.

A good TAC lawyer will quickly be able to advise you on your chances of succeeding in a lump sum claim at the outset. At RCT, we often offer to fight a client’s case under our No Win No Fee OR Expenses* policy.

External links

Road Trauma Support Services: www.rtssv.org.au

Traffic Accident Commission: What to do if you've had an accident

Call 1300 366 441 or find us at an office near you for advice on TAC injury claims, or download our TAC brochure.